Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Reflections of Lessons Learned

It is natural for me to reflect a bit in this time of transition and I wanted to mention a few lessons I've learned over the past 4 years while at CCS.

1) Yeserday I mentioned that I wasn't sure I wanted to work at a Christian School with overtly Christian students, what I learned was that my perception was wrong. I grew up in public schooling and my kids are in public schooling. Its as much for financial reasons as philosophical reasons but I certainly understand why parents are looking for choices out there. What I learned is that students are students the same everywhere. There is pain, hardship, brokeness, lostness and needs everywhwere. My stereotype of a Christian School wasn't exactly accurate. I believe I was called to CCS for this season particularly for those with many questions, doubts, pain and longings in their hearts to understand how the Gospel of the Kingdom was for them. As well, I think that the "good" Christian students from great families saw a different perspective, learned to think for themsevles and we found great mutual respect for one another.

2) The reason why parents should send their students to CCS is because its a place where students are not a number, but can be cared for as individuals. There is no question in my mind that the #1 strength of CCS is that the staff genuinely cares for the students and the students know it. Even as there is conflict or complaints over teaching styles and academic difficulties, students will tell you that the teachers genuinely care for them and want the best for them. I'm not sure I ever had that in any of my academic experiences.

3) The Gap between the traditional church and any streams of emerging church (still not sure what I think about that term) can be bridged through genuine relationship. I told the administrators hiring me 4 years ago that I didn't think I was their man, that I didn't represent what was typical of their shareholders. They disagreed and so I re-entered the traditional Christian culture and learned a lot. I always tried to explain my views and flavor of doing church as my own reflection and story and not as "the way" to do church. I sought to honor all the Christian traditions represented at CCS and let everyone have a voice. I hope that I was successful in this because models of church are not the "Big" idea, the Kingdom is the "Big" idea and there is plenty of room under that umbrella for many expressions of Church. I learned that regardless of Christian tradition, there are real people who care about the Church on all sides and are seeking to live out the old faith in a new world.

4) I learned that I love teaching. About 6 years ago, I fired myself from vocational ministry. Believing that I wanted to plant small communities of faith that were not dependent on pastor salaries or church facilities. Rather if we did it right, 80% of our income could be available for ministry. In doing that, I entered a dark transition and identity crisis. I had always been a pastor, I have a Youth Ministry degree and a Seminary Masters of Divinity. What could I do in the real world? Well, that has been a journey. CCS was a place and a training ground for me to develop teaching skills and philosophy of doing that. I learned how to present content, but keep the atmosphere relational and interactive. I am constantly learning how to make the classroom student oriented and not teacher dominated. I now believe that this is the vocation I could spend the rest of my life in as I use it to support my habit, which is planting communities of faith.

5) I learned that God provides. When I signed my first contract at CCS, it was for less than my first job out of college. The difference was that I now had 2 kids and one more on the way. After the 1st year, I transitioned roles from administration to full-time teaching and took a $5k paycut from there. All the while, I had no idea how ends would be met. Literally, on paper, I had no idea how to make it work. 4 years later, my kids have never missed a meal. Now I'm hardly the martyr, because as $ is always tight, we not only made it but have done it relatively comfortable. All along, God provided. Sometimes in unexpected gifts, sometimes in providing for me side jobs, sometimes just teaching us how to manage what we have. I learned that income is relative, We don't make as much as public school teachers, public school teachers don't make as much as other public servants, public servants don't make as much as those in private business . . . but all make more than 98-99% of the rest of the world. In America, the large majority of us are in the top 1% of wealth in the world. Its all relative, less we start feeling too sorry for ourselves.

6) I learned that the Gospel of the Kingdom is more like a virus than academic content. It is more caught than taught. I have given hundreds of "celebrations of learning" :) (quizzes) and exams over the past 4 years but I bet you that students barely remember any of it. What they will remember is if I embodied the Kingdom theology to them. Students don't remember what you teach, they remember what you value.

7) I believe my largest accomplishment is what my daily goal was. "To prepare students for a lifetime of Christ-following". It grieved me to know that students at Christian schools were not just graduating from Christian schools, but they were graduating from Christianity. This was my written goal each year and my biggest thrills come from hearing back from graduates how they are continuing to incorporate their faith in the middle of who they are and who they are becoming. That is really all I cared about. I wanted students to join the revolution of Christ-following and find that the Kingdom of God was not a place we go to after we die, but the experience real life now. To belong to God and let Him belong to you. To know that you are the beloved and He is yours. Then to pariticipate with Him in the ushering in of a new heaven and a new earth. To live in the reality of "your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven."

I will greatly miss my students and my colleagues who have been another kind of spiritual community to me. I know that some of these friendships will go on for quite some time.

I also pray for the leadership of CCS because there are many roles to fill and it takes wisdom, discernment and God's provision for that to happen. That is not an easy task and they are having to do it while working other full-time jobs to suppport their families on. I wish CCS nothing but the best and a prosperous future.


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